Macular degeneration is the most common cause of visual impairment in older adults. We all reach an age where our sight stops being perfect. In the UK, it is estimated that over a quarter of a million adults suffer blindness because of Macular Degeneration. It develops when the part of the eye responsible for central vision (the macular) is unable to function effectively as it used to.
Visit your GP or optician
If your vision is getting worse it is important that you see you optician or GP. Where Macular Degeneration is suspected, you’ll be referred to an ophthalmologist for tests and any necessary treatment.
How sight loss makes you feel
Wokingham Healthwatch recently asked the local Macular Degeneration support group about living with the condition as well as how easy it was to access information and services locally. Click here to read about their experiences from dealing with diagnosis, to the difficulties in shopping caused by not being able to read food labels or recognise coins, navigating the town and even cooking. The study showed that Macular Degeneration is an experience of losses, with many of these losses leading to increased social isolation.
Those that have lost or are losing thier sight, may understandably find things difficult. It is common to feel shock, anger, fear, sadness or loss. Worrying about how you will cope, or feeling depressed about the changes you are facing is also common. In these situations it is important to recognise and talk to those close to you and to those who help you about your feelings and concerns. You can also contact the RNIB Helpline 0303 123 9999.
Living with Macular Degeneration
Many people make adaptions to their daily-living activities and seek to find ways round difficulties in order to maintain independence and enjoy life as fully as possible. Watch the video below to hear Shirley’s story about living with Macular Degeneration.
It is fantastic to see how well Shirley manages with her condition. Detailed below are some of the resources that can be drawn upon to help others do the same.
Reading is still an important part of Shirley’s life which she has been able ot contune thanks to services such as
- RNIB’s Talking Books service has thousands of titles available free-of-charge.
- RNIB’s Library has a huge range of books available in braille or large print.
- Talking Newspapers supply audio versions of a range of local and national newspapers.
Lighting & Magnification
As you saw Shirley uses a small magnifying glass and a special light which help her to see much more clearly. The RNIB supply a range of lighting and magnification solutions. Simple changes such as replacing regular light bulbs with daylight bulbs or add a floor light to frequently used rooms can make an immediate difference.
Eyeshields and sunglasses
Shirley found that ordinary sunglasses made everything too dark and so when outside she now wears the golden glasses which take away the glare away without taking any of the light. It is important to protect your eyes from harmful light. Specialist glasses and eyeshields are designed to exclude harmful ultra violet (UV) and blue light which can damage the retina, while the different filter tints can help increase contrast and definition. The RNIB (and no doubt your local optician) will supply a range of eyeshild products.
Labels allow people with sight difficulties to find and use your belongings and appliances. The RNIB sell a range of labelling solutions including audio or Braille labels. Labels can be used to identify food, medication, untencils etc. They can also be used to provide instructions for appliances, recipes and laundry. Tactile dots in the home can help people to find the right settings on their oven or microwave. As you saw with Shirley cooking class they use a talking microwave and talking scales.
Making others aware
When out and about, Shilrey sometimes uses a symbol stick. The symbol stick gives Shirley confidence because it makes other people aware. Perhaps asking a carer from Gardiner’s to accompany you on an outing is all that you need to get out and about?
Benefits and concessions
If your sight is impaired you may be entitled to:
- Blind person’s tax allowance
- Television licence fee reduction
- Blue Badge Scheme – car parking
- Free postage – “Articles for the blind”
- Free NHS eye examination
- Disabled Persons Railcard
- Free bus travel
- Free directory enquiries
- Cinema pass for carer
- Protection under the Equality Act
- Assessment by social services
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- Attendance Allowance
- Carer’s Allowance
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Tax Credits
- Housing Benefit
- Council Tax disability reduction
- Universal Credit
- Pension Credit
- Free ticket for a guide at theatres, galleries or tourist attractions